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Period Poverty

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 11th March 2020.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Assistant Whip

Last year, NHS England announced that it would offer period products to every hospital patient who needs them, and the Home Office announced plans to change the law to provide period products to those in police custody. In January this year, the Department for Education launched a scheme to provide access to free products in state-funded schools across England.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

That is welcome progress, although I would suggest that domestically there is still some work to do.

ActionAid tells us that one in 10 girls in Africa misses school because they do not have access to sanitary products or even private toilets. The Government have a target of eradicating period poverty in developing countries by 2030 and my hon. Friend Wendy Chamberlain has introduced a Bill to improve transparency on that. Will the Minister meet me and my hon. Friend to discuss our Bill?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Assistant Whip

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and I am sure that we welcome the Bill. In 2019, the Department for International Development announced a global campaign of action on this very issue—to end period poverty globally by 2030. The global campaign was kick-started with an allocation of up to £2 million for the small and medium-sized charities working on period poverty in DFID’s priority countries.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

A recent report by Women’s Aid shows that almost half of domestic abuse survivors living in refuges do not have enough money to pay for essentials. Schools, prisons and hospitals now provide free sanitary products for women and girls, so when can we expect victims of domestic abuse living in refuges, and their daughters, to be extended the same courtesy?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Assistant Whip

The hon. Lady makes an absolutely essential point. The tampon tax fund has dealt with a number of these points; it was established in 2015 to allocate funds generated from VAT on period products to protect vulnerable women and girls on this very issue.